Thursday 22 February 2018

NYPD hunting for stolen model of iconic Irishman relaxing on skyscraper girder

Cathy Whelan in Whelan's pub in Shanaglish, where the historic picture and letter were sent.
Cathy Whelan in Whelan's pub in Shanaglish, where the historic picture and letter were sent.

Brian McDonald

A MANHUNT has been launched in the US for a Galway construction worker. But it's no ordinary manhunt.

The individual being sought by the New York Police Department is made of metal, fibreglass and cement, weighs about 100 lbs and is a member of the most famous construction crew in the world.

Until now the man holding a bottle and pictured on the far-right of the iconic photograph 'Lunch Atop a Skyscraper' has, along with his 10 colleagues, been anonymous.

Photographer Charles Ebbets captured the eleven-man crew in 1932 as they took a lunch break, sitting on a steel girder 70 floors up in the New York skyline. The men were working at the time on the construction of the Rockefeller Centre.

The photograph is among the world‘s most famous images, so much so that New York-based Italian artist Sergio Furnari committed it to a life-size sculpture in 2001, weeks after the attacks on the Twin Towers.

The sculpture, mounted on a truck, was parked for five months at Ground Zero and served as an inspiration to the clean-up crews desperately trying to recover bodies from the devastated site. It depicted 'the fearless men of New York'.

Later the sculpture travelled across the US on a nationwide tour and was seen by countless millions of people.

Last week the sculpture was stored, as usual, in a lock-up facility used by Sergio Furnari in Queens, but the premises was broken into and the figure on the extreme right was unbolted from the truck and stolen.

"I feel like they stole a part of me, a part of my life", Furnari told the 'New York Post'.

Mr Furnari (37) recalled the uplifting impact his work had on the crews as they had battled through tens of thousands of tonnes of rubble at Ground Zero.

"When they were down in the hole, nobody was smiling. But when they were out by the statue they were inspired and realised their work was being appreciated," he said.

A copy of Ebbet‘s remarkable photograph - he took it from the 69th floor of an adjoining building - has hung in Whelan‘s pub in Shanaglish in Co Galway for the last five years.

Publican Michael Whelan had met Pat Glynn, the New-York based son of an emigrant from the area, and received a copy of the photograph with inscription five years ago.

The inscription reads: "As promised; note photo far left, Matty O‘Shaughnessy lighting cigarette. My father Patrick (Sonny) Glynn far right, holding bottle in hand (water, I assume in bottle). . ."

Both Matty O‘Shaughnessy and Patrick (Sonny) Glynn are believed to have emigrated from the Shanaglish area of south Galway in the 1920s and worked in construction in New York. Up to now, it had generally been thought that the workers pictured were Italian steelworkers.

Yesterday, publican Whelan recalled meeting Pat Glynn on a rare trip home to the place where his father had grown up. "Pat Glynn mentioned the photograph to me and I said I'd love to get a copy."

The NYPD are now investigating the theft of the model, thought to be worth $7,500 (?5,790).

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